Secondary Teacher Preparation: South Carolina

2015 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that secondary teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach appropriate grade-level content and for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas.

Nearly meets

Analysis of South Carolina's policies

South Carolina offers single-subject secondary licenses to teach grades 9-12. The state requires that its secondary teacher candidates pass a Praxis II content test to teach any core secondary subjects. 

Unfortunately, South Carolina permits a significant loophole to this important policy by allowing both general science and general social studies licenses without requiring subject-matter testing for each subject area within these disciplines (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science and Social Studies" analysis and recommendations). 

Further, to add an additional field to a secondary license, teachers must also pass a Praxis II content test. However, as stated above, South Carolina cannot guarantee content knowledge in each specific subject for secondary teachers who add general science or general social studies endorsements. 

South Carolina addresses some of the instructional shifts toward building content knowledge and vocabulary through careful reading of informational and literary texts associated with college- and career-readiness standards for students and through its required assessment for English language arts teachers, the Praxis II English Language Arts: Content and Analysis (5039) test. The state's new competencies for middle and secondary teachers requires teachers to be able to "use knowledge of text complexity and student interests to match texts to readers and help students select texts with which they will be successful."

South Carolina now requires all secondary school candidates to take six credit hours in literacy, including a course in content-area reading. All programs must "ensure that all teacher candidates possess the necessary knowledge and skills to assist effectively all adolescents in becoming proficient readers." In addition, the state's new literacy competencies require teachers to "select and implement content area reading and writing instructional approaches based on evidence-based rationale, student needs, and purposes for instruction."

The new reading course requirements expect teacher preparation programs to ensure that all "secondary education teachers have the knowledge and skills to provide effective instruction in reading and numeracy to all students." Literacy competencies require teachers to be able to "differentiate instructional approaches to meet students' reading and writing needs in the content areas." However, there is no specification that teachers will be able to identify or assist struggling readers.






Citation

Recommendations for South Carolina

Require subject-matter testing for all secondary teacher candidates. 
South Carolina wisely requires subject-matter tests for most secondary teachers but should address any loopholes that undermine this policy (see "Secondary Teacher Preparation in Science and Social Studies" analysis and recommendations). This applies to the addition of endorsements as well.
To ensure that its secondary content tests are meaningful, South Carolina should also reevaluate its passing scores so that all tests reflect high levels of performance. For example, the passing score for the Praxis II Mathematics: Proofs, Models and Problems test is set just below the 7th percentile. 

Ensure that secondary teachers are prepared to meet the instructional requirements of college- and career-readiness standards for students.
Incorporate informational text of increasing complexity into classroom instruction.
Although South Carolina's required secondary English language arts content test addresses informational texts, the state should strengthen its policy and ensure that teachers are able to challenge students with texts of increasing complexity.

Incorporate literacy skills as an integral part of every subject.
To ensure that secondary students are capable of accessing varied information about the world around them, South Carolina should also—either through testing frameworks or standards—include literacy skills and using text as a means to build content knowledge in history/social studies, science, technical subjects and the arts.

Support struggling readers.

South Carolina should articulate requirements ensuring that secondary teachers are prepared to intervene and support students who are struggling. While college- and career-readiness standards will increase the need for all secondary teachers to be able to help struggling readers to comprehend grade-level material, training for English language arts teachers in particular must emphasize identification and remediation of reading deficiencies.



State response to our analysis

South Carolina was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

South Carolina also stated that disciplinary literacy is a primary focus of the state's recently adopted College and Career Ready Standards for English Language Arts 2015 for students PK-12. These standards guide teachers so that students will appropriately employ a "variety of strategies to discern the meaning of increasingly complex texts and other modes of communication to form logical, evidence-based conclusions."

How we graded

Research rationale

Completion of coursework provides no assurance that prospective teachers know the specific content they will teach. 
Secondary teachers must be experts in the subject matter they teach, and only a rigorous test ensures that teacher candidates are sufficiently and appropriately knowledgeable in their content area. Coursework is generally only indicative of background in a subject area; even a major offers no certainty of what content has been covered.  A history major, for example, could have studied relatively little American history or almost exclusively American history.  To assume that the major has adequately prepared the candidate to teach American history, European history or ancient civilizations is an unwarranted leap of faith. 

Requirements should be just as rigorous when adding an endorsement to an existing license.
Many states will allow teachers to add a content area endorsement to their license simply on the basis of having completed coursework.  As described above, the completion of coursework does not offer assurance of specific content knowledge.  Some states require a content test for initial licensure but not for adding an endorsement, even if the endorsement is in a completely unrelated subject. 

College- and career-readiness standards require significant shifts in literacy instruction.
College- and career-readiness standards for K-12 students adopted by nearly all states require from teachers a different focus on literacy integrated into all subject areas. The standards demand that teachers are prepared to bring complex text and academic language into regular use, emphasize the use of evidence from informational and literary texts and build knowledge and vocabulary through content-rich text. While most states have not ignored teachers' need for training and professional development related to these instructional shifts, few states have attended to the parallel need to align teacher competencies and requirements for teacher preparation so that new teachers will enter the classroom ready to help students meet the expectations of these standards. Particularly for secondary teachers of subjects other than English language arts, these instructional shifts may be especially acute.

Secondary Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
Research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training,Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute,March 2007, Working Paper 3. Evidence can also be found in B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523.

J. Carlisle, R. Correnti, G. Phelps, and J. Zeng, "Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading." Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2009, pp. 457-486, includes evidence specifically related to the importance of secondary social studies knowledge.

In addition, research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of teacher content knowledge on student achievement.  For example, see D. Goldhaber, "Everyone's Doing It, But What Does Teacher Testing Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?" Journal of Human Resources, Volume 42, No. 4, Fall 2007, pp. 765-794.  Evidence can also be found in White, Presely, DeAngelis, "Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois", Illinois Education Research Council (2008); D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Does Teacher Certification Matter? High School Teacher Certification Status and Student Achievement." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; and D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity." Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523. See also D. Harris and T. Sass, "Teacher Training, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement". Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3.

For an extensive summary of the research base supporting the instructional shifts associated with college- and career-readiness standards, see "Research Supporting the Common Core ELA Literacy Shifts and Standards" available from Student Achievement Partners.